Forest Reflections 2 consititutes a physical installation of the children’s Forest Creatures. The creatures are framed and laid out in a swarm formation. Like their virtual counterpart (Forest Reflections 1) they, too, live in darkness until illuminated with a candle “interface”. Once again, participation is essential for the work to “come alive”. Until then it remains in shadow.
The framed works are reminiscent of the insect collections common to museums. When the Old Museum on Gregory Terrace was still Brisbane’s premiere historical museum, masses of pinned butterflies, moths and other insects would educate us on the subtle differences as well as similarities of their species. Today, this type of display resonates with our studies on the Bechers, Typologies and Gestalt theory. For me, Forest Reflections 2 is both a poignant reminder of the past and, simultaneously, an insight into the imagined forest of a child.
Forest Reflections 2 is very much a collaboratively created interactive artwork where students and teachers (Jackie & Katrina) were fully involved with me in both the creation of the parts (the Forest Creatures) and the creation of the whole’, Gestalt swarm.
Interestingly enough (from an artists point of view) this real world, physical swarm came AFTER the virtual swarm. I love this journey and the tightness of the conceptual structure. As a researcher in interactive art, I feel the symmetry between the 2 works raises all sorts of questions (the nature of the interface in the physical world, the contrast between interacting in the physical or the virtual or the horizontal plane and the vertical plane…)
Forest Reflections 1 is a computer based interactive artwork that uses a candle as an interface. This richly afforded interface device is immediately intuitive in the movements and behaviours it facilitates. The overall interaction is similar to Spotlighting for animals in the bush, an analogy that highly suitable to our project. The experience is slow and explorative, and dreamy or “mesmerising” at times.
At the exhibition our children would use the candle to explore and light up their winged Forest Creatures for their parents. These Forest Creatures are the Assemblages they created throughout the artist residency project and which were later stop-motion animated before being combined into a virtual “swarm”, or gestalt as the interactive artwork Forest Reflections 1.
More, larger movies are available on the next page:
dear parents, carers & staff,
Please join us this coming Friday afternoon 26.8.11 at 2pm in the Ellipse room at Grovely primary for an open studio. I will have the interactive artwork Forest Reflections installed for informal viewing and discussion about the process of making it – as well as all the beautiful forest creatures and animations your children have been working on so very hard!!
This open studio is in preparation for our final installation at Walkabout Creek visitor centre on Saturday September 10 (which I DO hope you already have in your diaries! 🙂
Hope to see you on the 26th and again on the 10th!
Explaining the concept of Gestalt or a composition to 6-10 year olds has challenged (and improved! 🙂 my ability to communicate it.
When I talk about Gestalt I mean ”visual composition” or where ”the whole is greater than the sum of the parts”. Art theorist, author and perceptual psychologist Rudolf Arnheim is very articulate on the subject: he describes Gestalt Perception as a foundation of visual perception and draws on an 1890 essay by Christian von Ehrenfels to explain it with evidence from an example: “if each of 12 observers listened to 1 of 12 tones of a melody, the sum of their experiences would not correspond to what would be perceived if someone listened to the whole melody.” (“Gestaltqualitäten.” Vierteljahrsschrift für wissenschaftliche Philosophie, 1890, vol. 14, pp.249-292.) For Arnheim, “all perceiving is also thinking, all reasoning is also intuition, all observation is also invention.” Furthermore, Gestalt psychology’s position ‘’that vision is creative and not just a ‘mechanical recording of sensory elements’” asserts that the experience of seeing is not just “an entirely subjective imposition of shape and meaning upon reality” but rather “the process of looking at the world [is] an interplay between properties supplied by the object and the nature of the observing subject.” (See Arnheim, R., Introduction, in Art and Visual Perception A Psychology of the Creative Eye. 1954, University of California Press: Berkeley. pp. i-ix.)
While Gestalt, composition, the role of interpretation and the subjectivity of seeing are difficult concepts to convey to people who are only just learning to think abstractly; I am finding that these children are getting there. Remarkably quickly, in fact. Even by the end of Thursday I had seen an improvement in their comprehension of these ideas. (Their open-ness and flexibility in learning has impressed me, along with how good the teaching staff are with facilitating this development and student absorption and exploration of ideas).
In attempting to convey the concepts we have been talking about Recipes as opposed to a mish mash of ingredients; of the balance, perseverance and ‘heart’ or spiritual aspects involved in Andy Goldsworthy‘s landscape artworks as opposed to them being simply a pile of stones. We have also talked about the face composition that emerges from what otherwise could be simply a collection of food scraps or utensils in Jan Svankmajer’s “Dimensions of Dialogue” stop motion animation or Arcimboldo’s Summer oil on canvas.
So now when I point to a picture of a spoon in an artwork to ask ‘what is this?’ the answers I get include spoon but also ‘nose’; acknowledging the role of the composition and their understanding in what they see. Thus we also reinforce their understanding that perception is constructed, that interpretation plays a role in what we see, and that there are many different “ways of seeing“.
In addition to our Artist in Residence (AIR) program, Forest Reflections, our community has decided to participate in Planet Ark’s “Plant-a-Tree-Day, National Tree Day and Schools Tree Day”, proudly sponsored by Toyota, which make up Australia’s biggest community nature protection event. Co-founded by Olivia Newton-John and Planet Ark in 1996, these days have become landmark events nationwide. Since its conception, more than 2.5 million volunteers have planted over 16 million native trees and shrubs and restored many thousands of kilometres of unique Australian landscape to enable local native plants & animals to flourish. National Tree Day is a “call to action” to all Australians to get involved in volunteering to help protect and preserve their local environment.
Many volunteers are encouraged by the fact that Tree Day is a national event. By joining together with the rest of the country, the volunteers are able to measure the significant environmental impact of all their combined efforts across Australia. The theme for National Tree Day 2011 is “Life is Better With Trees” – a reminder of the many ways that life is really better with trees.” – Source: http://planetark.org/
At Grovely, we have chosen to hold our plant a tree day on Friday 29 July. We registered our intention to hold a ceremony and have been advised by Planet Ark that they have arranged volunteer insurance coverage for the day. This means that the children and staff of Grovely State School will automatically be covered but all volunteers can register on the day and be covered by this same insurance cover. Our tree planting ceremony will be held at 11:30am. Invited guests include Mr Geoff Wilson MP, Member for Ferny Grove and Minister for Health and Mrs Vicki Baker, Principal of Grovely State School.
As part of the day, we would like to invite the parents and carers of children in Montessori Cycle 2 classes to join us for some light refreshments after the ceremony. We would love to share the ceremony with you and let you know about some of the amazing activities already undertaken as part of our AIR program. Please let us know if you are able to attend. It would be greatly appreciated if a number of parents could provide a small plate of food to share.
Many thanks for your continued support.
Katrina Mills and Jackie Semple
Several children tied in their work with shadows that they have been doing in science (working with sundials). They held their leaves up to the dappled lights from the trees and played with the blocks of shadow shapes made with their hands.
Quite a few children were interested in the writing instruments which led to discussions on the history of writing and how humans could have communicated to each other- what tools they could have used ( this leads in beautifully to our cosmic education great lessons!).
One child also discovered a beautiful brown garden spider camouflaged on a piece of bark from the tree – the children discussed that the forest belonged to the animals so they helped me carefully ensure that it was safe in its natural environment. Several children also noticed the soil slowly filling up their containers after coming dislodged from the Quandong seeds. This led to the discussion of the importance of soil to plants and animals in the forest.
Some children debated whether or not they were considered a part of nature or were separate from of which of course I am sure will stimulate further debate in the classroom.
The culminating show at the end of our project has now been confirmed to happen on Saturday 10 September 2011! This will be at Walkabout Creek Visitor Centre on Mount Nebo Rd in The Gap. More details will follow, but essentially the show will include an installation of the interactive art work “Forest Reflections” and the children’s visual diaries.
This embodies our project’s philosophy of ‘beginning in the forest and ending in the forest’
Hi, I’m Jen Seevinck, an artist and researcher. I’m very excited because I’m about to start an Artist in Residency project with the lovely staff and students of Grovely State School!! Yes, I just learned that the art project I proposed to Arts Queensland back in April – with the fabulous input and support of Grovely staff Jackie Semple, Katrina Mills, Vicki Baker – was successful! Arts Queensland are funding a residency and collaborative project between myself, the two teachers and their 47 students. I will be “in residence” for about 2 months during the next school term. That is, I’ll be working in the background and also interacting with the kids to create “Forest Reflections”: a series of 2 interactive art systems and a bunch of other complementary, creative efforts. This web log (blog) documents and describes the progress of Forest Reflections. You can find out more about Forest Reflections here and about my artwork here.